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Now browsing: Hometown News > Columnist Archives > Travel - Kate Fowkes

An Alaska cruise offers breathtaking sights, sounds
Rating: 2.89 / 5 (146 votes)  
Posted: 2006 Dec 01 - 02:58

Alaska is our beautiful unspoiled wilderness and is full of wildlife. One of the best introductions to Alaska is a seven-night cruise of the Inside Passage.

Imagine the dramatic sights and sounds of glaciers calving, sighting whales or spying sea lions sunbathing on an iceberg from your cruise ship balcony.

Each of these ports has something special to offer and not to be missed, so come join me on a visit along the Inside Passage of Alaska.

Ketchikan is a lively city that is packed with things to do, such as a visit to the Totem Heritage Center, with a collection of more than 30 totems or a stroll through the city center with a stop at Dolly's House Museum, formerly the parlor of Dolly Arthur, Ketchikan's infamous madam.

For the more adventuresome, hiking, kayaking, flight seeing tours and rainforest adventures are among the many possibilities.

An interesting option is a floatplane trip over the breathtaking Misty Fjords National Monument; this is an adventure that you won't want to miss.

The souvenir photos you'll take will be worth the trip alone.

(Ketchikan has the highest amount of yearly rainfall, so bring along your rain gear.)

Juneau is the city of imagination where sightseeing abounds.

Downtown Juneau, built on the sides of Mount Juneau and Mount Roberts, is a delightful mix of Victorian homes, old storefronts and modern architecture.

A stroll through Juneau, the state capital, reveals many attractions including the octagon-shaped, St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church built in 1897, the oldest church along the Inside Passage.

Juneau, known as the "Gateway to the Glaciers," has 42 glaciers within a 1,500 square mile radius. Mendenhall Glacier is nicknamed Alaska's "drive-in" glacier because of its accessibility 13 miles from the city center. The trails surrounding the glacier and the visitor's center provide breathtaking views. Other ideas: flight-see over the ice fields or a scenic boat ride to Tracy Arm Fjord to view birds, seals and whales.

Have time? Visit Admiralty Island National Monument, a short drive from Juneau, home of the largest brown bear population in Southeast Alaska.

Skagway is the Gold Rush town where in 1898 thousands of prospectors passed through in search of Klondike gold. The colorful history of that era has been preserved in a seven-block corridor along Broadway, featuring restored buildings, false fronts and wooden sidewalks. As you browse the shops along Main Street, make time to stop by the Red Onion Saloon to enjoy the honky-tonk piano music.

Stop by the Arctic Brotherhood Hall, the most photographed building in town, built in 1899 with 20,000 pieces of driftwood tacked to the front. Skagway isn't complete without a visit to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park or a scenic ride on the famous vintage railcars of the narrow-gauge White Pass & Yukon Route Railway.

Sitka is a quaint town that was the Russian capital of Alaska from 1808 to 1867 when the United States purchased the territory. The lively performance by the New Archangel Dancers, a local women's dance group, keep the Russian spirit alive through their folk dances and brightly colored costumes.

A must see in Sitka is St. Michael's Cathedral with its onion-shaped domes and many precious icons and religious artifacts that date back to the 1800s.

In 1966, the historical church was destroyed by a fire. While the Cathedral was burning, parishioners created a human chain to save all the precious icons and artifacts, which are now on display in the Cathedral.

Sitka also is the site of the 107-acre Sitka National Historical Park, which was established in 1910 and displays an excellent collection of totem poles.

Should you have more time to travel think about combining your cruise with a land tour of rail and motor coach visiting Mount McKinley, Denali Park and Fairbanks, but let's save that for the next article.

Kate Fowkes is a travel consultant with Gadabout Travel. She can be reached at (321) 253-3674.

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